Identifying the Bible’s Jerusalems
JERUSALEMS? Yes, the Bible does speak of a number of different Jerusalems. This should not surprise us, as the name occurs upward of eight hundred times in the pages of the Bible, from the time of Joshua to the closing years of the apostle John. Thus we read of “Jerusalem” (Josh. 10:1), of “Jerusalem above” (Gal. 4:26), of “heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22), and of “New Jerusalem.”—Rev. 21:2.
However, time and again, the Jerusalem mentioned is not identified by some adjectival expression. To know which Jerusalem is meant may require considering the context or other parts of the Bible. The city in the time of Abraham was known as “Salem,” meaning “peace.” The later name “Jerusalem” means “possession (or foundation) of twofold peace,” or possibly just “city of peace.” Jerusalem is usually thought of as an Israelite city, but in the time of Joshua it was inhabited by the Jebusites. In conquering the land under his leadership, the Israelites failed to oust completely these pagans from their city. (Josh. 15:63) This situation apparently continued until David became king.—2 Sam. 5:4-10.
In those early days the city was not large, only about 194 hectares (three fourths of a square mile). It was and is situated about thirty-five miles (56 kilometers) inland from the Mediterranean Sea and some fifteen miles (24 kilometers) due west from the northern tip of the Dead Sea, at the edge of the wilderness of Judea. As the capital of the twelve-tribe kingdom of Israel, it appropriately was centrally situated. It consisted largely of several hills—Mount Moriah, Mount Zion and the Western Hill. Associated with it also were several valleys: the Kidron Valley, the valley of Hinnom and the Tyropean Valley. Although from a distance Jerusalem did not appear to be highly elevated, because of the hilly nature of the surrounding country, yet it was and still is one of the highest capitals in the world, having an elevation of some 2,500 feet (762 meters).
There was little about the location of Jerusalem to account for its greatness. It became important and famed because Jehovah chose to put his name there. (Deut. 26:2; 1 Ki. 11:36; 2 Chron. 7:12) When King David brought the ark of the covenant there, it was as if Jehovah God began to dwell there, and when King Solomon dedicated a magnificent temple to Jehovah on Mount Moriah, it became even more so His “lofty abode.”—1 Ki. 8:13.
Fittingly, ancient Jerusalem was said to be Jehovah’s “resting-place,” the place where he was “residing.” (Ps. 132:14; 135:21) It was also termed “the holy city,” “the town of the grand King,” “City of Righteousness, Faithful Town,” “Zion,” “the city of Jehovah” and “the throne of Jehovah.”—Neh. 11:1; Ps. 48:2; Isa. 1:26; 33:20; 60:14; Jer. 3:17.
SYMBOLIC OF GOD’S NATION AND “WOMAN”
In the historical books of the Bible, from Genesis through Esther, the name “Jerusalem” always refers to the literal city just described. And apparently this is also true of the historical books of the Christian Greek Scriptures from Matthew through Acts. But in the poetic and prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures and the rest of the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term “Jerusalem” is often used in a symbolic sense.
Quite naturally, since it was the capital of Israel, Jerusalem was used at times to stand for the nation itself. Thus at Isaiah 52:1, 2, 9, Jehovah tells that he will bring back Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity, not meaning the literal city itself, nor just its inhabitants, but a remnant of those of Judah that went into Babylonian captivity. The apostle Paul makes a similar reference at Galatians 4:25: “Now this Hagar means Sinai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children.”
Because literal Jerusalem stood for God’s nation of Israel and that nation was in a covenant relationship with Jehovah, he typically referred to her as his wife and to himself as her husband. “For the sake of Jerusalem I shall not stay quiet. . . . No more will you be said to be a woman left entirely; . . . but you yourself will be called My Delight Is in Her. . . . With the exultation of a bridegroom over a bride, your God will exult even over you.” (Isa. 62:1-5) “For your Grand Maker is your husbandly owner, Jehovah of armies being his name.” (Isa. 54:5) Of course, these prophecies have also an antitypical fulfillment.
In that her people professed to be God’s people, though they were unfaithful to him, Jerusalem during such times of apostasy is a fitting prototype of Christendom, which also professes to be God’s people and even bears the name of God’s Son. However, she is Christian in name only, being unfaithful to God. Therefore, we may rightly conclude that those prophecies which tell of Jehovah’s anger and warn of his executing judgment upon the ancient city of Jerusalem have a further application to Christendom. An example of this appears at Ezekiel 9:4: “Pass through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and you must put a mark on the foreheads of the men that are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of it.”a Jesus’ prophecy warning Christians to flee when they see armies surrounding Jerusalem likewise applies directly to literal Jerusalem, and, by extension, to Christendom today.—Luke 21:20-22.
When faithful, the nation of Israel, as represented in Jerusalem, was typical or symbolic of Jehovah’s spiritual Israel, made up of the 144,000 victorious followers of the King Jesus Christ. (Dan. 7:13, 14, 27) Their spiritual “mother” was pictured by the owner of the slave girl Hagar, namely, Abraham’s true wife Sarah, the mother of Isaac. This is borne out by the words addressed to Christ’s followers at Galatians 4:26: “Jerusalem above [the antitypical Sarah] is free, and she is our mother.” This is the heavenly Jerusalem to which peoples are streaming today.—Mic. 4:1.
How could this be, you might ask, since the peoples of the nations are on earth and the “Jerusalem above” is in the heavens? It is because this “Jerusalem above” (the antitypical “free” woman Sarah) is represented on earth by the “remnant” of Christ’s anointed footstep followers. Thus in the prophecies of Isaiah and others, as well as in the book of Revelation, things are said to happen to this heavenly Jerusalem, God’s woman, when actually they happen to the “sons” yet on earth.
A good example of this is found in Revelation chapter 12. There God’s “woman,” his heavenly organization, who is not called by name, is shown as giving birth to God’s Messianic kingdom, a male child. Then we read that the woman fled into a wilderness where she was fed for 1,260 days, “away from the face of the serpent.” Still Satan thereafter persecuted this woman and tried to drown her with a river of water disgorged from his mouth. Surely none of this could have happened to God’s “woman” or universal organization in heaven! But fulfillment of Bible prophecy shows that all these things did happen to her “seed,” her children upon earth. Bearing this out, we read: “The dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God.” (Rev. 12:1-17) Similarly, the restoration prophecies of Isaiah and other prophets had their initial fulfillment upon earthly “Jerusalem” back there, upon the people of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, but they have their greater fulfillment upon God’s heavenly “woman” as represented by her spirit-begotten children, Christ’s anointed footstep followers.
THE “NEW JERUSALEM”
Another Jerusalem mentioned in the Scriptures is the “New Jerusalem.” In the book of Revelation no Jerusalem is spoken of but New Jerusalem. (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10) She is the “wife” of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in much the same organizational sense that the heavenly universal organization of holy spirit creatures is the wife or “woman” of Jehovah God. That is why the apostle Paul could write: “I personally promised you [spirit-begotten disciples of Christ] in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2) In keeping with this figure of speech the apostle John tells: “I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2, 10) Further helping us to identify this New Jerusalem is the fact that it has twelve gates on which are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel—not meaning, however, the tribes of ancient Israel, but the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel mentioned at Revelation 7:4-8. Clinching the matter is the fact that this New Jerusalem has twelve foundation stones on which are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.—Rev. 21:12-14.
In the Scriptures literal Mount Zion is time and again associated with literal Jerusalem and so we find it in regard to spiritual Israel. At times, it appears to refer to a location rather than to a city or an organization. Thus John writes: “I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.” In other words, the New Jerusalem, the 144,000 spiritual Israelites, are pictured as standing with their Bridegroom on Mount Zion.—Rev. 14:1.
Pertinent here are the words addressed to Christianized Jews at Hebrews 12:22, 23: “You have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels, in general assembly, and the congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens, and God the Judge of all, and the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect.”
How are we to understand this text? The understanding is as follows: The “city of the living God” and “heavenly Jerusalem” with its “myriads of angels” appear to have reference to the “Jerusalem above,” Jehovah’s universal organization, the antitypical Sarah. The 144,000 members of the bride of Christ are what is referred to by the “congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens.” They are part of the inhabitants of the “city of the living God.” Similarly, the words “the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect” is another way of speaking of the 144,000, including the remnant thereof still on earth who have been declared righteous and have attained to spiritual maturity.
It is written in Luke 21:24: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” This prophecy is not fulfilled upon Jerusalem, the capital of the Republic of Israel. Throwing light on this text is Ezekiel 21:27 in which Jehovah God foretold the overthrowing of the last Judean king and that “it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.” In view of this prophecy it is plain that the Jerusalem that was trampled underfoot until the appointed times of the Gentiles or nations are fulfilled must be not just the earthly city Jerusalem. Rather, it represents the right to the Messianic kingship that reposed in the royal line of David according to the covenant Jehovah made with him. That covenant assured King David that his royal dynasty would continue forever, which, in fact, was why Jesus had to be David’s direct descendant. This right to the Messianic kingship began to be trampled on in 607 B.C.E. with the overthrow of earthly Jerusalem and the deposing of her king, Zedekiah. This trampling by the nations continued until when? Until he came whose right it is, Jesus Christ. Fulfillment of such prophecies as Revelation 11:15 to 12:10 shows that Christ in heaven began to exercise this right in 1914. It was at that time that Jehovah commanded him to go subduing in the midst of his enemies.—Ps. 2:7, 8; 110:1, 2.
The foregoing is enlightening indeed. We see that Jerusalem was the name of the literal city itself, and that at times it stood for the nation of Israel, or for the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. It also typifies unfaithful Christendom, even as ancient Jerusalem became unfaithful. Further, the name is applied to Jehovah’s universal organization, and at times to the “bride” of Christ as a New Jerusalem, and also “Jerusalem” may refer to the right of the Messianic kingship.
Let us bear in mind that the foregoing is not only interesting but also of the greatest importance to us. Jehovah God has caused his prophecies regarding the restoration of Jerusalem, which applied to the Jews returning to their homeland in 537 B.C.E., to have a greater and grander fulfillment in the restoration of those today who represent “heavenly Jerusalem,” the remnant of the body of Christ still on earth. These, together with their companions, the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” are enjoying a spiritual paradise today. It is the privilege and duty of all sincere worshipers of the Creator, Jehovah God, to associate and cooperate with the “remnant,” representing ‘Jerusalem which is above,’ in rendering sacred service to God.—John 10:16; Rev. 7:9, 15.
a This prophecy is having fulfillment today as Jehovah’s anointed servants, pictured by the man “with a secretary’s inkhorn at his hips,” take the lead in the work of ‘marking’ those distressed because of the wickedness that they see in Christendom, such marking being done by aiding these to develop a Christlike personality.